This past week, the New York Jets cut ties with John Conner, nicknamed "The Terminator," a fullback who gained a cult following after being featured in HBO’s Hard Knocks. Conner’s absence left a void in the 53-man roster, and to fill his now empty spot, the Jets called up Marcus Dowtin, nicknamed "The Hybrid," from the practice squad. Marcus gets his nickname from his position, as he is capable of playing both the linebacker and safety positions. Marcus has also become a fan favorite after he was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Jets following the 2012 NFL Draft. I had a chance to speak to Marcus, who passed on some insight into what it’s like to be an undrafted rookie.
Scouting reports indicated that Marcus is extremely athletic, has great movement ability, balance and body control. He’s fast and can be used as a pass rusher or, ideally, in coverage. He’s a bit small for his position, but that didn’t prevent him from dominating at both the University of Georgia and the University of North Alabama, where he transferred after his junior year. Marcus was the 17th ranked inside linebacker in the draft out of a total of 101 eligible players, according to NFL Draft Scout.
Before the draft began, Marcus was "under the impression that [he] was going to be drafted." "I had the stats, I had the playing time in college," Marcus said. Furthermore, Marcus pointed out that he had a fantastic Pro Day. His statistics put him in the upper tier of available linebackers. Although he was not asked to come for a visit during the draft process, he was in contact with several teams such as the Jets and the New Orleans Saints. However, it was the Jets that called him throughout the draft to check up on him. Although he thought they might pull the trigger and draft him, he quickly signed with the team after he went undrafted. Reports now indicate that Marcus was the Jets’ top UDFA priority. Marcus says that knew about the Jets and Rex Ryan, and really liked the vibe he was getting from the team.
Once he signed with the team and was eventually placed on the practice squad, Marcus helped run the scout team. After running back Terrance Ganaway was cut, Marcus tells me he filled in at running back on the scout team, although he also played wide receiver, tight end, and numerous positions throughout the team. He would switch between offense and defense, giving each side a new look to prepare for.
Marcus continued that role until this week, in his words, "trying to build trust" with the coaching staff. He says he felt like they always wanted him on the roster, and implied that they were just waiting until he was ready. Although Marcus isn’t sure if he is going to play yet this weekend against the New England Patriots, he said he’s been getting a lot more practice reps on defense and special teams. As for Mike Westhoff, arguably the best special teams coordinator in the league, Marcus said that he "keeps it real. He lets you know where you stand, and expects the most from you."
I asked Marcus what it’s been like adapting to a Rex Ryan defense from college, and he said that it wasn’t a huge change for him. When he was at UGA, they had a similar pro-style, 3-4 defense. He said he’s a quick learner, and the experiences he had in college were important for him before he arrived with the Jets.
One of the interesting tidbits that Marcus told me that was while a lot of his friends on the team have gotten cut, one player he hangs out a lot with is safety Antonio Allen, who he went to high school at Fork Union Military Academy together. Allen had a big game this past weekend against the Indianapolis Colts, racking up his first career sack. Like Quinton Coples and Muhammad Wilkerson who went to Hargrave Military Academy together, Allen and Marcus have a long history with each other.
Finally, I asked Marcus if he had any personal goals for the season. His immediate response was probably the best answer I could have hoped for. "Winning. I just wanna win," he said. Furthermore, he said now that he knows he’ll be playing special teams, he wants to make the Pro Bowl as a special teamer. I really liked Marcus’ attitude though. His first thought wasn’t about himself, but the team. On a team that’s had its fair share of divas, that was great to hear.
It’s clear to me that Marcus is a player that’s on his way up. With his versatility, I’m very excited to see what he can do. We don’t know yet if he’ll play this weekend, but when he gets his shot, I’m confident that he’ll seize the moment. So as this current season plays out, if you’re looking for an under-the-radar, team-first player to root for, take a look at Marcus Dowtin.